I was baptized at the age of 19 and have continued progressing ever since, however in the two years since my baptism I prayerfully decided that I should finish my college education (engineering) instead of serving a mission. This decision has left me wondering if it’ll affect my opportunities to marry someone within the church, even if I continue to serve dilligently (currently serving as a counselor in the EQ pres.)
Thanks for your note, and congratulations on your baptism! I have a great deal of respect for a young man who joins the Church at 19. I understand the difficulty that two years of self-funded volunteer missionary service poses for a young adult who never planned on any such thing. I make no personal judgment about you, my young friend. You have my admiration for coming to the gospel and my sympathy for the difficult choices you face.
I don’t see a question in what you wrote, so I’m inferring something along the lines of, “Will LDS girls not want to date me because I didn’t serve a mission? What can I do to mitigate such a possibility?” Let me offer you a candid perspective.
The first question — “Will LDS girls not want to date me because I didn’t serve a mission?” — has a straightforward answer: Mormon women are individuals and have individual preferences. Some LDS young women will not want to date a young man who refused to serve a mission; others won’t care much. Some LDS young women are open to dating young men who haven’t served missions, but when they find out the young man simply decided he didn’t want to go, lose interest. Generally, a faithful person looks for an equally faithful mate, but how that shows itself in any given person and any given situation can vary.
But why would a young woman care whether a young man has served a mission? Because serving a mission is a proxy for measuring a man’s sense of commitment to his Priesthood duties. A young man who serves a mission (or attempts to serve a mission but is excused because of health or other reasons) demonstrates that he values the covenants of his Priesthood and is determined to fulfill those responsibilities. Of course, serving a mission is no guarantee of lifelong gospel fidelity, just as refusing to serve a mission is not a spiritual death sentence. But we are the culmination of our choices, and wise young women realize that a returned missionary who has shown his willingness to fulfill his Priesthood duties, even when they may be difficult, long, and expensive, is more likely to continue fulfilling those Priesthood responsibilities when the demands of marriage and parenthood come calling.
The second question — “What can I do to mitigate such a possibility?” — is trickier to answer. You can lie or prevaricate. You can make up lame excuses. You can take offense when asked and act the part of the injured party. Most women don’t respond very well to such things, though. You could also simply tell the truth: You didn’t serve a mission because you didn’t want to. This is a blunt response, but has the great virtue of being open and honest.
The most obvious response to the above question is: If you don’t want to experience the consequences of a certain decision, then don’t take that decision. Right or wrong, missionary service is a commonly used proxy among young, faithful Latter-day Saint women for measuring gospel commitment in the young men they date. That’s the fact. Any decision you make will have consequences. Accept that reality and adjust your actions, speech, and thought accordingly.
G.B., if you are still open to the possibility of serving a mission, I urge you to take this to the Lord in fasting and prayer, and ask him what he would have you do. I also urge you to talk with your bishop and let him give you guidance. You might explore possibilities such as serving a mission after finishing your undergraduate degree. If you have already made up your mind and feel that the Lord has confirmed your decision, then pursue your course. Remember the adage often quoted by our late, beloved prophet, Thomas S. Monson: “Do your duty. That is best. Leave unto the Lord the rest.”
All the best to you.